Monday, January 11, 2016

Clematis for 2016.

I have always enjoyed growing Clematis.  The Hagley Hybrid at the left has been growing at the front gate for about 12 years.  It gets abused quite often.  Many years I forget to prune it.  One year it was a tangled mess of sticks and I cut it off about two feet above the ground and she liked that a lot!  I provide no extra care for her other than on the really dry years I might give her a drink of water now and then.  I do call her a her because I've never seen a him that can be as pretty as her.  There are years where she has so many blooms on her that you can hardly see the leaves.  She can be gorgeous for about 4 weeks, simply covered in blooms but usually that doesn't happen.  One sunny afternoon when she is in full bloom the wind will blow 45 miles an hour and I'll watch her strip naked of all the petals that make her pretty.  You just stand and watch it happen.  But like a lot of the resilient gals I know, that spend time in the garden, she'll be back.  She's seen a lot of wind.

We have a nice selection of Clematis for Spring 2016.  Following is a list of available varieties:

Amethyst Beauty                   light purple to lavender blue flowers

Bijou                                      violet flowers

Diamantina                            fully double light blue flowers

Diana's Delight                      lavender flowers

Rebecca                                 magenta red flowers

Sapphire Indigo                     sapphire blue flowers

Candy Stripe                         lilac with a pink bar flowers

Cardinal Wyszynski             crimson flowers

Comtesse de Bouchaud        shell pink flowers.  This is one of my favorites!

Hagley Hybrid                      pink with purple anthers This gal is as resilient as your Grandma!

Henryi                                   creamy white flower

Jackmanii                              blue purple flower

The really pretty clematis that you see on the mailbox down the street is really pretty for a couple reasons.  One is simply time.  Plant a clematis and expect to enjoy it as it develops over the years. Some take more time than others to get really pretty.  Many clematis will flourish in full sun if you shade the root.  Shading the root holds moisture in place and allows the clematis to establish its roots when young.  Last but not least, dogs love to pee on them.  They create perfect form and are planted on posts, trellises, and etc.  This is where dogs love to pee.  Clematis, especially young clematis, are very sensitive to salt loads.  If your dog, or the neighbors, religiously pees on your clematis she will die. The clematis, not the dog.  No wait!  I take that back.  I know a man who weed wacked his wife's clematis and he nearly died!  I'm quite sure if he owned a dog it might not be alive today.  If you fertilize, do it once in very early spring as growth begins and a lightly a second time after the first flowering cycle has completed. 


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How to prune and care for your Clematis:

If you've been successful growing a clematis for a couple years, you stand back and look at that tangled mess of stems and "Say What?"  What to do with the mess is a question I get asked multiple times a year.  I will try to address the complex descriptions you will find in regards to pruning and then I will give you the Open Air simple solution.  

Clematis are separated into three pruning groups, 1,2, and 3 or sometimes you will see them classified as A, B, and C.  The tag will tell you what classification group a clematis falls into.  If you no longer have the tag but remember the name you can look it up on line.  If you don't know the name, let us know and we'll try to figure out which one it is.  After growing clematis for 24 years, we've pretty much grown them all.

Group 1 clematis:  These clematis flower in the spring on growth from the previous year.  In other words they bloom on old growth.  Prune these vines right after they finish blooming in spring.  The new stems that grow will then have enough time to make flower buds for the following year.  How much to remove when pruning depends on the vine's vigor and the support you have used to grow it on.  Try not to prune into hard wood that has developed low on the plant.  If the vine has become a tangled mess you can prune it hard, 24 inches in height, but you will sacrifice some bloom the following spring.  The great thing is there are few group 1 clematis that are hardy in our area and chances are really good you don't have one.  Pretty much you can disregard everything you just read.  

Group 2 clematis:  These clematis bloom in late spring or early summer, then bloom again sporadically, on new shoots and old stems.  The major flush of spring blooms come from old growth but they will continue to bloom on new growth but with less flowers.  The old growth will produce some very nice, large flowers.  If you cut back these clematis drastically right after the first bloom, you miss out on much of the summer show.  If you prune just before growth begins, you miss the spring flush.  The best approach with a group 2 clematis is to thin out old dead canes before growth begins in late winter or early spring and than do this again once the spring bloom has finished.  An alternate plan is to severly prune the plant back by half every other year.  You can also cut the whole plant back drastically every few years just before growth begins, with little or no pruning during the time inbetween.  Somewhat confusing but I'll make it fairly simple if you keep reading.

Group 3 clematis:  These clematis bloom in late summer or fall on new growth produced earlier in the season.  These are the easiest vines to prune as you simply cut all stems back to strong buds within a foot or so of the ground each spring.  This is what you should do with Sweet Autumn clematis and other fall blooming clematis.

Let's simplify the entire process.  Nearly every clematis grown and sold in our area is a group 2 clematis.  You may have a group 3 clematis and we do sell a few very nice varieties.  After growing clematis for 25 years this is what I do.

I do nothing until spring.  This is usually very late March and sometimes it may even be very late April.  Because of the extreme winter cold and wind we get in Nebraska, much of the more tender, upper canes will die and turn brown.  Anything dead, prune it off.  In late April it is easy to see what is dead because anything alive will show swollen buds.  Everything dead above the last swollen bud can be removed regardless of the group.  The easiest way to prune a clematis is to stand up next to it and anything above your waist, cut it off.  If you follow this procedure and your clematis blooms on old wood, you are leaving a lot of old wood and will see a spectacular bloom from the height of your waist to the ground.  This works equally well for clematis that bloom on new wood.  Plenty of new growth will present before fall so that you will get a spectacular bloom from new vines.  If you want your clematis to grow over the top of an arbor or 12 feet up a tree you probably will need to buy a group 3 clematis like Sweet Autumn.  A large flowering clematis just will not survive our winters above 6 feet in height.  In twenty five years I have not seen a Jackmanii blooming on top of anybodys garage because the highest parts of the vine don't survive our winter cold and wind.  

Anything higher than your waist, trim it off.  Enough about pruning.

Pruning is important but so is shading the root of a clematis.  Shade it with a heavy layer of wood chips, slant a shake shingle over it or build a box to place around its base.  If you shade with a structure of some sort, be careful you don't create a winter habitat for rabbits or worse yet, hundreds of mice.  They can do massive damage to the base of a clematis and if they get really hungry you won't have to worry at all about pruning in the spring because the rabbits will do it for you.  Truly, a five inch layer of wood mulch is probably the best way to shade the root of a clematis.  Be somewhat careful of grass clippings because as they decompose you may see some fungus problems, expecially if it stays really wet.  

Fertilizing:  You can fertilize your clematis real early in the spring and once right after the first flush of flowers have faded.  Mix the fertilizer half of what the label recommends.  If you have planted in good soil you won't need to fertilize much.  Clematis are very prone to problems when salt levels build up in the soil.  If your, or the neighbors dog urinates on a young clematis once it may have a chance, twice and it is dead.  

If your husband weed wacks a little too close to that newly planted clematis and cuts it off, tell him he killed it and try to get him to take you out for supper to make up for it.  Don't tell him that it will really be just fine.  They will regrow from the root and be even fuller, stronger, and nicer in the future.  He simply did the first pruning, by accident, that most gals just refuse to do.  It will be late flowering, possibly by 11 months but it will be OK.

Last but not least is the dreaded clematis wilt.  The new hybrids are more resistant to clematis wilt but it has definitely not been eleminated.  If your clematis comes up and looks excellent in April, early May, and maybe into the first week of June and three days later you walk by it and it is brown and looks completely dead it probably has the wilt.  You can try to salvage it by carefully removing everthing that is dead and dispose of infected vines in a trash can.  Be careful not to nick or slice into healthy canes.  New canes will replace the old and may perform well for a few years.  I have a Jackmanii at my home that has the chronic wilt.  It never kills the root system, just levels the vine every June.  The canes all die back and new ones come on but they never have time to produce blooms before it freezes.  I haven't seen it bloom in 8 years, while the two that are planted 10 feet to either side of it are beautiful every year.  Best advice is dig it out, discard it, and start with a new one.  

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